Friday, August 30, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Michigander Monday: Alan L. Lee

I'm pleased to welcome Alan Lee to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Alan, please tell us a little about yourself.

Alan:  I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years. I started out covering sports, having not fulfilled the pipe dream of becoming a professional athlete. The farthest I got on that front was playing semi-pro baseball in the Caribbean for a year.

My sports director days ended when Washington, DC came calling.  I was up for two jobs at the same time.  One, a sports director job in Austin, Texas, and the other meant switching to news for the NBC owned and operated station in DC, WRC-TV.  Even the news director in Austin told me it was a no brainer so off to Washington it was.

While in DC, I got to cover at times one of my beloved passions, the intelligence community.  The CIA, NSA, FBI, Secret Service, I couldn’t get enough of it. It certainly helped me gain some contacts and insight into the various government agencies.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

AlanSandstorm is loosely based on a real-life collaborative effort by the U.S. and Israel aimed at derailing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. The goal was to frustrate Tehran and force it to spend mass quantities of wealth, thus hopefully making the Iranians realize such goals were too costly and deadly to pursue.

In Sandstorm, I take that idea and run with it a bit.  CIA agent Nora Mossa is on the run because of what her late mentor discovered.  Now with her life in danger and nowhere to turn, she seeks the help of an ex-lover and former spy.  Problem is, their relationship ended badly and Alex Koves swore he wanted nothing to do with her ever again.  They must find a way to work together in order to avoid a Middle East catastrophe.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Alan:  Yes, working on book two in the series.  Sandstorm has been optioned to be a major motion picture so hopefully this is only the beginning of many more to come.

Book two brings back my protagonist Alex Koves, as he’s out to settle a score that painfully came to light in Sandstorm.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Alan:  At the moment, I’m scheduled to appear at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on Oct. 27th for its “Books & Authors” program.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Alan:  I’d have to say my favorite Michigan bookstore is Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.  It’s a quaint place that just feels so cozy.  The employees are knowledgeable about authors and their work and they really seem to be into books.  I’ve been in some bookstores where it’s obviously just a job for some people.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Alan:  I’m a city kind of guy so I enjoy the pavement and haunts that a big city has to offer so I’d have to say Detroit or one of the surrounding suburbs.  I also like to golf so any location with a scenic 18 holes gets a gold star from me.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Alan:  I love jazz.  It’s been my pleasure for the past several years to MC the opening night of the Detroit International Jazz Festival.  This free event attracts a vast array of legendary names in the world of jazz.  It’s a wonderful Labor Day weekend event.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Alan:  In terms of writers, of course Elmore Leonard comes to mind.  It’s so tragic that he recently passed away. A true Michigan icon, his writing has stood the test of time. He started out writing westerns in the early 1950s.  I interviewed him a number of times for TV and he was kind enough to provide a blurb for Sandstorm. If you want to learn a few things about the writing craft, go read a few of his books!

I’m privileged to call Aretha Franklin a friend.  The first time she called me on the phone, I was convinced it was a prank call from one of my friends.  Delighted that it wasn’t.

Michigan also has a great ambassador so to speak in Kid Rock.  He’s always pumping up the state and is conscious about giving back to the people who helped him become the performer he is today.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Alan:  It’s not nearly as bad as those who don’t live here portray it.  There’s a wealth of resources available and a spirit among the people that’s infectious.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Alan:  I’m originally from Chicago, but if I had to go with one, I’d choose Michigander.  It sounds more intimidating and mysterious.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column.  Alan, thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WriteOnCon, and a chance to win a rhyming manuscript critique

In case you don't know about it already, WriteOnCon -- a free, online conference for children's literature writers -- is going on now.  There are blog posts, vlogs, forums, live pitches, and more.

Conference tab:

List of authors/editors/agents participating:
As part of WriteOnCon 2013, I've got a short video about rhythm and rhyme.  The post includes a chance to win a critique of a rhyming picture book manuscript.  You can find my WriteOnCon video at this link:
Happy writing, and happy rhyming!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Michigander Monday: Susan Newhof

I'm pleased to welcome Susan Newhof to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Susan, please tell us a little about yourself.

Susan:  I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and from the time I could hold a pencil, I have been putting words together. Poems, plays, songs, stories. In the early 1990s, I moved to Washington D.C. to work as a press officer for the American Red Cross National Headquarters. I conducted interviews with national media and did media briefings for Elizabeth Dole, who had just come on board as the organization’s president. I loved being in the thick of it.

And then…I ran into the wonderful man who had been my senior prom date and one of my best friends in high school. Paul and I fell in love, moved back to Michigan, and I gave up an exciting life in the big city for an even better life in a town of 2,500.

From my home in Montague, I write and work as a communication consultant to foundations and non-profit organizations. Words run through my head all day, and I am so fortunate to be able to make my living as a writer.

My concern for animal welfare issues moved me to become a vegetarian several years ago. Paul and I volunteer with Pound Buddies Shelter and Adoption Center in Muskegon and other local animal rescue groups, assisting cats and dogs in transition and helping find them permanent homes.

Debbie:  And of course, we want to know all about your books!

SusanSpirits & Wine is my first novel – the first of many, I hope. After decades of writing non-fiction, I discovered that making stuff up is great fun! Spirits & Wine was inspired by things that were happening in the 125-year-old house that Paul and I live in. It’s a mystery with a ghost in it, and readers describe it as a page turner – what a great compliment!

The fifth edition of my guide book Michigan’s Town & Country Inns was just released this month. This was a particularly fun edition to write. I loaded it with stories and sidebars, histories and recipes, a good many photos, and descriptions of more than 50 delightful inns and B&Bs in Michigan. It’s a great gift for the travelers in your life, and it offers a satisfying arm-chair tour for those who don’t want to leave their den.

Both books are published by the University of Michigan Press.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Susan:  I love writing prologues and am hoping to turn one of the half-dozen I’ve written into another novel. Our four lovely city hens have been the inspiration for several essays that I’d like expand into a memoir about raising chickens as pets.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Susan:  On August 16, we’ll launch Michigan’s Town & Country Inns at the Book Nook and Java Shop here in Montague. It’s from 5-7 p.m. – happy hour! I’ll make a brief presentation and show slides of several of the inns I featured. It should be great fun. Events at the Book Nook always are!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

SusanThe Book Nook and Java Shop in our little downtown is at the top of my list. When it opened, it became a place for friends to gather, and when it was moved to bigger quarters a few doors down, the owners added a wine bar and full kitchen, a performance area and a cozy two-sided fireplace. Live music, author events and book groups fill its calendar. It is Montague’s version of a town square, and it’s within walking distance from my house. I love it!

I have a very warm spot for the friends I made when I spoke at the Roscommon Area District Library one snowy cold winter day. They laughed at my jokes, bought my books, and jump-started my car when I discovered I had left my lights on and my battery was dead!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Susan:  That is an impossible question! Favorite places…I love the wineries, the beaches, the dunes, the rocky shores of Lake Superior, sun rises over Lake Huron and dusk at Lake Michigan. I love Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, the lighted cross-country ski trails at Muskegon State Park, bonfires in our backyard on snowy nights, any river where I can sit on the shore and watch Paul fish, and the dinner tables of our friends where we gather often to share meals.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Susan:  Saturday mornings throughout the summer you’ll find me at the Farmers’ Market in Montague. The selection of fruits, vegetables, flowers and baked goods offered by our local vendors is spectacular, and the market is a fine time to catch up with friends. The Lavender Festival at Cherry Point in July is a mid-summer treat, and the Pumpkin Roll in Montague…well…if you’ve never legally rolled a pumpkin down a hilly city street hoping yours would be the first to the bottom, come try it!

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Susan:  Writer Robbyn Smith and her artist-husband Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen are long-time friends and remarkably prolific, talented people; author Mardi Link, whose book Bootstrapper was just released, is a fine story teller and great fun; artist Sharon Smithem can make beauty in any medium, and when you stop in at the Book Nook, you’ll see her marvelous mosaics.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Susan:  Lake Michigan is MUCH bigger than you think!

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Susan:  Michiganian.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michiganian tally column.  Thank you, Susan, for joining us today for Michiganian Monday!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Michigander Monday: Cori McCarthy

I'm pleased to welcome Cori McCarthy to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Cori, please tell us a little about yourself.

Cori:  I’m a young adult author living in western Michigan with my husband and toddler. I’ve only lived here for a few years—previously I lived in New England, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

CoriThe Color of Rain is a YA sci-fi thriller about going too far for someone you love. It is a bleak, edgy story—definitely not for the faint of heart! The suggested audience is 14+.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Cori:  I’m working on a new young adult novel, as well as some middle grade historical fiction.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Cori:  I’ll be scheduling a few Michigan signings in the very new future. Please stop by my website at to see if I’ll be coming to your area. I would love to meet Michigan readers!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Cori:  I love Great Lakes Book & Supply in Big Rapids! They were so kind as to set up an online link for my friends and family to order signed copies of my book.

Debbie:  How about favorite placse in Michigan?

Cori:  I absolutely love Ann Arbor, as well as the dunes out at Silver Lake Park. So stunning! The sands remind me of Tatooine.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Cori:  I love the Renaissance Festival in Holly in the fall. It is FANTASTIC.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

CoriTirzah Price, a very good friend, runs The Compulsive Reader blog. If you’re interested in discussing young adult books, check it out at

Another friend,  YA author K.A. Barson, has a debut novel that just came out in July. Her book, 45 Pounds (More or Less) is a hilarious and painful story about weight issues and family stress.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Cori:  Michigan is huge and strange and lovely in the summer. The western half of the state has beaches that rival anything on the east coast…really!

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Cori:  I prefer Michigander!

Debbie:  We'll add you to the tally!  Cori, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Obnoxiously large author photo now small and to the side!

Couldn't figure out how to make the photo work in the banner up top with the text, so now it's over to the side, at a more reasonable size.

...And that's about all the technological excitement I can handle in one day, so time to log off.

Blog now features obnoxiously large author photo!

...Haven't figured out how to shrink the banner image to a smaller size yet.